Shakespeare Quartos Archive

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Scope and Content

William Shakespeare, the great playwright and actor of the Elizabethan age and one of literature's most celebrated figures, did not publish his own work and churned out new plays at a staggering rate. At the time, scribes in the audience noted the action and text of plays as they were performed – these notes were then published as scripts in unbound, quarto form and devoured by the public.

The quartos are the most contemporary versions of Shakespeare's plays, as they were often published soon after a performance and pre-date the well-known First Folio, which was published several years after Shakespeare's death. Several digitised quarto versions of Shakespeare's plays, which are now far too fragile and rare for hands-on study, can be accessed via the archive.


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A Jisc funded digitisation initiative. Publisher: University of Oxford

Additional Information

The study of Shakespeare's quartos provides insight into textual discrepancies and enables further research into disputed or unclear passages of the plays. Studying the plays in quarto form also enables students of Shakespeare to see the plays in their historical context and understand more about how the plays were performed to feisty Elizabethan audiences.

Users can compare quarto texts side-by-side, download and print texts, overlay texts and also search, mark and tag texts. Guides to using and exploring the archive enable users to exploit and enjoy the site's full capabilities.